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SHERWOOD — Year in Review

<p>Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman</p>Buy Photo

Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman

January

Sherwood receives impact fees study

The city of Sherwood has received a 39-page road and park impact fee study prepared by a Texas consulting firm designed to provide the city council information about the fees and what they would be expected to provided to the Sherwood community.

Duncan Associates of Austin, Texas, had put together the study in September 2011. In March, the city council authorized an expenditure of about $30,000 to pay for the study. If the fees would be enacted in Sherwood, the revenue would be used to benefit city roads and parks.

What are impact fees?

“Impact fees area way for local governments to require new developments to pay a proportionate share of the infrastructure costs they impose on the community,” according to page 4 of the study. “Impact fees are charges assessed on new development using a standard formula based on objective characteristics, such as the number and type of dwelling units constructed.”

According to the study, the fees are a one-time, upfront charge with the payment made at the time of a building permit issuance.

“Impact fees require that each new development project pay a pro-rata share of the costs of new capital facilities required to serve that development,” states the study.

Duncan and Associates reported that impact fees are most appropriate for communities that are experiencing rapid growth. Taking into account the population of Gravel Ridge, the population within the current city limits increased by 19 percent in the last decade and is projected to increase by 24 percent in the current decade, according to the study.

“Assessing impact fees on new developments would provide a source of funding to construct the road improvements and new parks needed to serve growth without imposing an undue burden on existing residents,” states the study.

February

Windstream considers alternative Gap Creek route for fiberoptic cable

It appears that the squeaky wheel does get the grease. At least that is the hope of residents of the Gap Creek Subdivision.

Don Berry of the Gap Creek Community Association said a representative of Windstream has toured the neighborhood and has indicated the company is considering routing fiberoptic cable in such a way that will avoid the neighborhood.

“I met with Windstream’s new project manager,” Berry said. “I gave him a tour of the areas of Gap Creek that would be at risk for potential damage by the cable installation.”

Berry said he gave a tour with Windstream Project Manager David Rottmeyer.

“He was the first Windstream management to our knowledge to actually view the situation we had been describing to them since last June,” Berry said. He said he gave Rottmeyer drawings of several alternative routes.

Windstream confirmed that Gap Creek residents and the company are working on a potential alternative.

“We are exploring an alternate route for the project in the Gap Creek area,” said Scott Morris, staff manager of corporate communications. “We’re optimistic but it hasn’t been finalized yet.”

Berry said Windstream’s management has promised to contact him to let residents know when an alternative is reached.

Windstream also would let the City of Sherwood know if they planned on not using public easements for their commercial venture, according to Berry.

Last month, Gap Creek residents came to the Sherwood City Council to ask aldermen to intervene about the prospect of Windstream running fiberoptic came through the subdivision.

City officials like Sherwood Engineer Ellen Norvell said the city could act as a mediator at a meeting between Gap Creek residents and Windstream but it could not stop the company from installing the fiberoptic cable because it had been granted a utility permit.

March

City takes over management of remaining North Hills golf course funds away from Sherwood Facilities Board

For at least 18 months, there has been question about the financial oversight of The Greens at North Hills: Who controls the purse strings? Is it the Sherwood Public Facilities Board or the Sherwood City Council along with Mayor Virginia Hillman.

Different sets of attorneys have been grappling with this issue for years.

On Monday, the Sherwood Council, after taking advice from City Alderman Charles Harmon and Municipal Attorney Steve Cobb, opted to take over managing the $1.29 million left in funding that was borrowed about two years ago for the city to buy the former North Hills Country Club and golf course, which has been renamed The Greens at North Hills.

The city originally borrowed about $7 million for North Hills, $5 million to buy it with the remainder to fix it up and replace outdated equipment such as the former decades-old golf course irrigation system.

Harmon credited fellow Alderman Steve Fender for rightly arguing that the city should have oversight over the funds instead of the city facilities board that is a separate governmental body that has its own board.

“I owe Alderman Fender an apology,” Harmon said. “He brought this up about a year and a half ago and asked whether or not the spending of the funds when we made improvements on the golf course —whether those funds should come to council.

Harmon said he and other city officials were operating under legal advice given to them by bond counsels representing the facilities board. However, more recent legal interpretations have led city officials to conclude that the city council and mayor should manage the money.

Cobb said the issue of which governmental body – the council or facilities board – should manage the remaining golf course funds is more of a housekeeping matter because the funds spent on the course were used for the purpose of buying and restoring The Greens at North Hills.

April

New Sherwood economic development chief brings fundraising, community service to position

The first-ever economic development for Sherwood began her new position on Jan. 31 and says she is glad to be back in Central Arkansas.

Kelly Coughlin, 40, currently lives in Cabot but plans soon to reside in Sherwood.

“I bring an absolute love for central Arkansas to this position,” Coughlin said. “I am so excited to make a positive contribution to the city and to work with everyone on the (Sherwood) Chamber (of Commerce) team. Sherwood is an absolute beautiful city. There is so much history to share and allow people to fall in love with this town, just like I have.”

Coughlin said with the recent economic downturn she is looking forward to working to bring in new business, assist our business community, bring in an increased tax base and maintain a positive business climate.

Coughlin said there are several projects she and the city chamber are working on at the present time, including promoting the city’s natural beauty, sources and award-winning park system.

“This brings new recreational opportunities and in turn creating a better quality of life.” Coughlin said. She also is working on a plan to showcase Sherwood’s family-orientated community with high quality amenities and the town’s safe neighborhoods while creating more public involvement and civic leadership that values the city’s small town character.

Coughlin is an Arkansas native whose experience spans two very different locations —Silicon Valley, Calif. and Lonoke County, Arkansas. She has applied her expertise in research, planning and business and economic development in a broad range of industries. She has nine years experience managing and development programs in a broad range of industries, nonprofits and settings.

“I have experience in all facets of marketing and business development as well as providing effective, proprietary solutions on how to bring in new business,” Coughlin said.

May

Sherwood creates market district

The Sherwood City Council Tuesday voted to establish a city market district at 119 Country Club Road, the site of the former Sherwood Bowling Center.

According to the ordinance, the designation of 119 Country Club as the Sherwood Market District will expire on Aug. 31.

“We have entered into a licensing agreement about what can be done on that property,” said City Attorney Steve Cobb, speaking on behalf of the Sherwood Chamber of Commerce. Cobb currently is the chamber president.

The district will be utilized for highlight farm produce, food sales, crafts and light entertainment, Cobb said.

Kelly Coughlin, city economic development director, said the site was chosen because it is a good location for pedestrian foot traffic to enjoy what a farmer’s market can bring to a community

Cobb said Coughlin was instrumental in getting a Farmer’s Market to start in Sherwood. In previous years, Coughlin worked to get a Farmer’s Market underway in Cabot.

Cobb said the chamber wanted to try and get a Farmer’s Market established in Sherwood and members believed that the Country Club location would be a good place to start.

The owners of 119 Country Club at first balked at the idea of setting up a market there because it was believed that they had a buyer who wanted the property. However, they have notified the chamber that the sale of the property will not take place until sometime in the future so all parties agreed to allow a market there through the end of August.

While the council adopted the ordinance, the city will not be involved in the market’s operation.

“The city shall designate administration and operation of the Farmer’s Market to the Sherwood Chamber of Commerce, the Sherwood Chamber of Commerce Office of Economic Development and their designates,” according to the ordinance.

Cobb said the chamber is working with Keep Sherwood Beautiful to help with the market’s operation and he is optimistic about its potential for success.

June

Sherwood firefighters ban together to build handicapped ramp for elderly woman

It is common for city fire departments like Sherwood’s to answer emergency calls dealing with the elderly. So, answering calls about elderly people falling down is common.

But on one recent call, Sherwood city firefighters admit they were more upset than usual by what they saw.

Members of the International Association of Firefighters Local 4756 say they decided to take matters into their own hands recently by building a handicapped-accessible ramp out of their own union funds for an elderly Sherwood woman who had fallen three times and firefighters were called upon to help her

Union President John Sawyer said the department is not releasing the name of the lady who is in her mid-70s because of privacy laws.

“She has an outdoor deck with steep stairs and what she was doing was she was falling on those steep stairs,” according to Sherwood Firefighter Cameron Lester.

Lester said about a half dozen city firefighters helped construct the ramp for the woman.

“It took a couple of hours to build and we voted to spend $100,” Sawyer said.

Sawyer said firefighters talked to the granddaughter of the elderly woman before the supplies were bought to make sure they had the family’s permission to do the work.

“The family told us including the woman that they were very appreciative of what was done for her,” Lester said.

Lester said city firefighters admitted they felt good doing something helpful for the lady.

“We want to help people,” Sawyer said.

Sawyer added that he and the firefighters are happy that they won’t be called upon a fourth time to the lady’s house for the same call about falling on steep outdoor steps.

Lester said the woman’s family was surprised when they were told the union planned on paying for the project.

July

Sherwood Council votes to authorize $1.5 million to buy emergency radios for police department

The Sherwood City Council voted unanimously to sign a contract so the city can replace all of its 20-year-old emergency radio/communications system.

The contract authorizes the city to spend about $1.5 million with the money due about one year after the authorization is granted, said Police Chief James Bedwell.

The purchase of the radios did not come without debate among city officials.

“That is fine we are need it but where are we going to come up with the $300,000 a year to pay for it?” Alderman Kevin Lilly asked.

Lilly said he remembers the 2012 budget-drafting process when city officials were going over expenditures line item by line item trying to find an extra $500 here or $1,000 there to be able to draft a balanced budget.

“I hear what you are saying but we have to do this,” added Alderman Steve Fender.

Alderman Charles Harmon said if Sherwood does not convert to the upgraded radios it will not be able to communicate with the Little Rock Police Department which is in the process of going to a more modern, digitalized system sometime in early 2013.

Sherwood as well as several other Central Arkansas municipalities depends upon Little Rock’s emergency communications system. If their emergency network cannot communicate with Little Rock’s system, they are unable to communicate with departments outside of their own municipalities.

“Little Rock is going digitalize because it is being mandated by the federal government,” said Alderman Ken Keplinger. “The whole nation is supposed to go digital in its emergency communications.”

Other city officials expressed frustration that the federal government is requirement action without accompanying revenue.

“Another unfunded mandate,” Harmon said.

August

Sherwood chamber votes to implement Arkansas scholars program

The Sherwood Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors has voted to partner with the Arkansas Business & Education Alliance to participate in the Arkansas Scholars Program beginning with the 2012-13 school calendar year.

The Arkansas Business & Education Alliance, a non-profit organization established in 1990 with a mission to improve education in Arkansas, is responsible for the implementation of the Arkansas Scholars Program in schools across the state. The Scholars Program is presented in partnership with school districts and the area Chambers of Commerce by business and community leaders during the spring semester to eighth graders to encourage the students to take the rigorous courses during their high school years.

The criterion includes:

* Challenging students to make a “C” or better in every course taken during high school (9-12 grades)

* Completing the Smart Core curriculum which includes four years of Math with one year of advanced coursework, four years of English, along with three years of History and Science

* Maintaining a 95% or better attendance record during the four years of high school

* Graduating in eight consecutive semesters

September

Several outlining areas of Sherwood will be on the ballot for possible annexation in November

Several outlining areas of Sherwood will be on the Nov. 6 general election ballot for potential annexation.

Five outlining areas of Sherwood will be up before voters on Nov. 6 for possible annexation into the city.

The Sherwood City Council on Aug. 27 voted to place before Sherwood voters measures that would annex the areas of North Gap Creek, the Cato Elementary/Northwood School, Carr Cove area, Woodridge Subdivision and the Oakdale-Mine Road area.

One ordinance brought before the council would have asked voters to annex into Sherwood the Loop Road area, but the motion to place the issue on the November ballot died for lack of a second. Alderman Ken Keplinger made the Loop Road motion but none followed his lead.

According to the five ordinances that passed by the council, voters of Sherwood as well as those in the currently unincorporated areas will vote on the annexation issue.

Of the five that passed, the Oakdale-Mine Road ordinance passed by a tie-breaking vote cast by Mayor Virginia Hillman. Aldermen Charles Harmon, Kevin Lilly, Tim McMinn and Toni Butler voted against the Oakedale-Mine Road annexation initiative while aldermen Steve Fender, Marina Brooks, Keplinger, and Mary Jo Heye were in favor of the request.

October

Sherwood man keeps climbing up the ladder in the field of martial arts

Most men when they turn 50 they are slowing down, planning for retirement and maybe even have their children raised. Not so for Sherwood’s Danny Dring.

The owner and operator of Danny Dring’s Living Defense Martial Arts just keeps on seeking and achieving new goals – mostly in his long-time craft of martial arts.

“I have always loved martial arts,” said Dring, who in June earned his 7th degree black belt in the Joe Lewis Fighting Systems from Joe Lewis. He also recently earned the title of obtaining his 8th degree black belt in Taekwondo.

One year ago, he earned the distinction of being voted the Pound-for-Pound Fighter Trailer of the Year and is the first three-time recipient and the first Lifetime Award recipient of the Pound for Pound Trainer Award.

In 2011, he was a bronze medal winner for the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) Masters and Seniors Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Tournament.

He even has helped write books on martial arts. In 2010, he co-authored Stay in the Fight: A Martial Athlete’s Guide to Preventing and Overcoming Injury,” which was published by Black Belt magazine.

In addition, in 2010, he was named the Fight Promoter of the Year by the Joe Lewis Fighting Systems.

County man close to Sherwood wants it to stay that way

A Pulaski County man just outside of the city limits of Sherwood said he wishes city leaders would allow him to speak during the regular October meeting of the city council that is set on Monday at 7 p.m. in the city council chambers.

County resident Ron Ragan said he loves country living and doesn’t feel he needs Sherwood’s zoning regulations, police protection or any other service that the city’s government can offer him. In fact, Ragan said he wrote a letter to Sherwood city leaders in time to speak at the September regular meeting of city council. However, he said he wasn’t given an opportunity to speak.

On Nov. 6, Sherwood voters and five small areas outside of town are being asked by the city to annex those areas into the city. For the past seven years or so, Sherwood’s leaders have had an appetite for annexing more land, including areas near the Little Rock Air Force Base and Gravel Ridge. Now city leaders are proposed to annex the areas of North Gap Creek, the Cato Elementary/Northwood School, Carr Cove area, Woodridge Subdivision and the Oakdale-Mine Road area.

Ragan said he’s not trying to be disruptive but just wants to speak his mind. He pointed out that his Justice of the Peace, J.P. Phil Stowers, recently wrote the council and urged aldermen to give Ragan his day before the council.

“At this time a petition has been presented to the city of Sherwood on behalf of the affected residents stating their opposition to this annexation,” wrote Stowers in a Sept. 24 letter to the Sherwood City Council. “It is my understanding the petition was signed by an overwhelming majority of the affected residents. If the majority of the citizens of this area are currently opposed to being annexed I would respectfully ask that you rescind the annexation ordinance, actively engage the affected citizens in open dialogue, and only move toward this annexation at some point if it is the general consensus of these citizens to be a part of the city of Sherwood.”

Ragan said most people in the outlining areas of Sherwood want to stay unincorporated.

November

Sherwood elects new alderman, adopts ordinance to annex 5 new areas

The open Ward 4 seat for Sherwood alderman was decided by a close margin as Mike Sanders defeated Bob Ferguson by a 1,510-1,157 margin, or 56.62 to 43.38 percent.

Sanders will be replacing long-time Ward 4 incumbent Steve Fender who decided not to seek another term on the Sherwood City Council.

In addition, five measures to annex additional land into Sherwood were adopted by voters.

Measures were approving annexing North Gap Creek, Oakdale-Mine Road, Carr Cove, Woodridge Subdivision, and Cato Elementary Northwood School.

According to election results, Sherwood residents voting on the Gap Creek ordinance adopted it by 4,491 votes (75 percent) compared to 1,445 votes against (24 percent). People within the Gap Creek area voted against the measure by a 6-3 margin with only nine votes being cast.

In the Woodridge Subdivision annexation ordinance, city voters passed it 8,666 (73 percent) to 3,116 against (26 percent). The measure was defeated soundly by people living in the Woodridge area, with 30 people opposed and six supporting it, resulting in 83 percent of people there against while only 16 percent for it.

In the Oakdale-Mine Road ordinance, 8,425 Sherwood voters cast ballots supporting its annexation compared to 3,322 opposed, or a victory of 71-28 percent.

For the residents living in the Oakdale-Mine Road area, 68 people voted against being annexed into Sherwood while 15 voted for being inside the city limits.

In the Carr Cove Ordinance, 8,307 Sherwood votes adopted it to make it a part of the city compared to 3,354 who were opposed, which translated into 71 percent supporting it compared to 28 percent opposed.

In the Carr Cove area, residents there opposed the measure, with eight opposed to being annexed while two cast ballots for the measure.

Sherwood city voters also passed annexing Cato Elementary Northwood School by a margin of 8,646-3,166, or 73 percent for the vote compared to 26 percent opposed.

Even though the majority of residents in the areas of Carr Cove, Woodridge, Oakdale-Mine, and North Gap Creek, their small number of votes were eclipsed by the large majorities of Sherwood voters who supported the measures. No votes were cast for residents in the Cato Elementary School ordinance since no one lives there because Sherwood is only annexing the school into its city.

December

Newtown shooting weighs into discussions about 2013 Sherwood city budget

The distance between Newtown, Conn., and Sherwood, Ark., may be 19 hours driving time, but discussions about the shootings there may have an impact on the 2013 Sherwood city budget.

On Monday, Sherwood City Council adopted next year’s budget. While several issues were discussed, the topic of Newtown’s Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre got into budget discussions.

Sherwood Alderman Charles Harmon said he wants to make sure the city budgets revenues for school resource officers.

“I want us to determine where we are on the budget in light of what happened in Newtown, Conn.,” Harmon said. “I want to see what we have not done in Sherwood. We have reduced the number of resource officers in our schools.”

Harmon said resource officer funds had been reduced because of budget concerns. However, due to the retention of North Little Rock Electric as an electric provider in Sherwood plus the expected annual influx of $770,000 in additional tax revenues due to state budget initiatives passing in November, the city needs to make sure city schools have necessary resource officers.

“We have a resource officer at Sylvan Hills Middle School but none at Northwood Middle,” Harmon said. “We need funds for that.”

Harmon added, “That (Newtown) struck me to the core especially when we have small children in the schools.”

Harmon said he believes it is the city’s responsibility to make sure school children are safe.

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